Universities and colleges in the United States accept students from around the globe to help students further their education and East Tennessee State University is in that category. Students travel hours to ETSU and for Maria Avila, it was no different.
Avila arrived as a freshman in spring 2013. She traveled from Cuernavaca, Mexico, the capital city in the state of Morelos. When she went home after a semester in the United States, she wasn’t sure she wanted to return. She missed her family and home.
In 2010, Michael Luchtan set out on an adventure to Mexico, hoping to learn Spanish and study Mexican heritage through its music. Along the way, he hoped to bridge divides between it and his own culture.
In 2016, Rodrigo Guridi came to East Tennessee State University from Uruguay to continue his music studies. His friend Diego Núñez would later follow.
Through Arrabal, a tango trio born from the three men’s love of music, Luchtan’s goals have been realized.
“Music doesn’t know about borders,” Núñez said. “People used to cross borders and music would just go with the people.”
It all started in South Texas. As a kid, Esmeralda Lopez loved visiting “raspas,” street vendors selling finely shaved flavored ice with traditional Mexican toppings. In 2011, with daughter Sam graduating from high school, she saw an opportunity for a new business.
The summer after Sam’s graduation, her parents, Esmeralda and Miguel, bought her a food truck and helped her start what is today Sam’s Snoball Paradise.
"Let's go Devils! BLUE, BLUE, BLUE BLUE BLUE!" screams a line of girls in blue jerseys. The sun is starting to go down as the players on the sidelines cheer for their teammates on the soccer field. For the six seniors, this is the last home game before graduation. By the end of the game, the girls are on their feet, barely ahead. As the time runs out, the girls jump up to embrace one another in a massive huddle, celebrating a win for their last home game of the season.
Two years ago, Unicoi County High School didn't have a soccer team. Head coach Bettina Chirica has been surprised by the amount of community support for the new program.
It is a Tuesday at the Johnson City Public Library around 5:45 p.m. Callie Longo, 24, is preparing for members to show up for a discussion group that she leads every week.
The conversation group usually spends half of the two-hour period speaking in English and the other in Spanish. Longo began the group as an alternative for people who wish to continue learning and speaking Spanish but do not have the time, or the money, to enroll in courses.
“I noticed when you’re in school, it is really easy to keep up the language skills,” said Longo. “But once you get into the adult world, there is not really anything available unless you’re consistently engaged in conversation.”